Customer Relationship SuccessCharles Darwin, who was an expert on the survival of the species (any species), once said that “it is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change”. And things are changing really fast these days. So, a customer service agent, sales, marketing or management team that is not open to, or coached throughout a change, can goof up badly. So badly that no amount of damage control will be successful in containing the chaos! Change management has therefore become a defining factor for effective customer relationship success.

The evolution of CRM – Customer Relationship Management – started late in the 1990’s, in response to more “customer-centric” times. A real need had been recognised for businesses to be able to offer proactive customer service of the highest possible standard; at the same time using this process for the purpose of building a database of customer profiles for future use. This data for future use was for the benefit of all departments – from upper-echelon management, through sales, marketing, and obviously customer service.

The short version is that over the years “spending” on CRM has compounded in growth, into billions of dollars annually. Exceeding $75 billion in 2005, so, we can only imagine what this spend is today?! Being so spendy; CRM implementations should ensure that every employee – the entire hierarchy, through to customer service teams, are all kept with their eyes on the prize.

What has been found however is that when change management is not used in the implementation of CRM systems. No amount of investment achieves a predetermined ROI (return on investment). So this combination of strategic management, and information systems that was devised to increase customer satisfaction, whilst checking out basically what the customer wants, with the aim of brand building, and customer retention – ultimately better profits – was simply not working. Now we know that the key to achieving CRM success; is syncing its implementation with the process of change management.

Change management addresses four processes:

  • leadership practices
  • infrastructure change
  • training practices
  • performance metrics

It is these four processes which help to expedite far more superior CRM executions. Take leadership practices for example – whenever a large CRM spend is initiated, there is bound to be a great deal of change in any corporate culture. The trick is that corporate culture changes need to take effect in a non- unsettling, or non-threatening way. All of a sudden the business is becoming “customer-centric”, and therefore any changes need to be marketed within the structure of the business too.

This internal marketing force is required to be as intensive as any external marketing force might be. Where change is concerned, internal marketing starts with top management and all the way down to end-user buy in. Communication throughout the organisational structure is therefore intensively fostered, aligned, and formalised which helps any changes to work with success. While there is a great deal more to be said about change management and how its use, or non-use, can make or break a CRM implementation. Let’s leave it at that for now, and perhaps deal with infrastructure change, training practices, and performance metrics at a later date.